Monday, March 7, 2011

Recipes Part 2: Pumpkin Pie

In my family, my grandmother was always the pie master; every holiday she made pumpkin pies, pecan pies and, if you were lucky, a mince pie. Having raised four children in the 1950’s, my grandmother was a firm believer in the canned pumpkin technique. However, she has recently passed on the pie making to me, her youngest granddaughter.

This weekend I set my sights on what has been a white whale for me: making a pumpkin pie from scratch. Houston Farms at the Atherton Market has had some beautiful pie pumpkins for weeks that I have been dying to try. I purchased one of these gorgeous gourds on Wednesday - the pumpkin plus a head of cabbage and three large sweet potatoes only cost me $7.36. I was able to get six overflowing cups of pumpkin meat (enough for three pies) so that makes buying a whole pumpkin cheaper than buying cans!

A note on pumpkins: Their season is relatively long, running September through March. Like many gourds and other vegetables in season this time of year, pie pumpkins are a great source of Vitamin A. If you want to try this or other winter gourd recipes, get to your local market soon because they will be out of season in just a few weeks.

The next step was consulting my cooking bible, The Joy of Cooking. The instructions in the book are simple though I have to admit that I didn’t make the crust from scratch. If you have access to local dairy products in your area, the only thing you would have to buy that wasn’t local would be the sugar and spices. I got my eggs, as always, from Windy Hill Farm (note: if you are using farm-fresh eggs, I would suggest just using 2 as these tend to be richer than store-bought).

Pumpkin Pie Filling
2 cups fresh pumpkin
2 or 3 large eggs (2 eggs for a cakier pie and 3 for more of a custard)
½ cup white sugar
½ cup packed brown sugar
1 ½ cups dairy (any combination of milk, evaporated milk, or light cream)
1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice (or 1 teaspoon ground ginger, 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, ½ teaspoon nutmeg and ½ teaspoon allspice)

To prepare the pumpkin:
  1. Cut in half and remove seeds
  2. Place meat side down on a cookie sheet with a rim
  3. Fill cookie sheet with about ¼ inch of water
  4. Bake until easily pierced with a fork, between 30 and 45 minutes, at 350˚
  5. Scoop out and allow to cool completely
Note: you can freeze the remaining pumpkin meat or just make several pies or pumpkin rolls.

To prepare filling:
  1. Follow instructions for the crust of your choice
  2. Whisk eggs thoroughly
  3. Whisk in pumpkin, dairy, sugar and spices until well blended
  4. Pour into crust
  5. Bake for 35-45 minutes at 350˚or until, when shaken lightly, the middle of the pie is still a little wiggly but the outside seems set
  6. Cool completely, refrigerate overnight (if you slice in too quickly, the pie will not have set up - I suggest refrigerating overnight or at least a couple hours before serving)
Here is the pie I made - not beautiful but it was delicious!


    1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    2. Technically, both butternut squash and pie pumpkins are in season from September through March, some of the longest harvest seasons of any vegetables. They are traditionally eaten in the Fall but they're still producing!

    3. That's what I originally thought, since most websites and sources say that they can be 'winter crops' BUT--since Puxatauny Phil predicted that spring will come early this year, this is especially true!--they are technically Fall produce here in North Carolina. One reason people tend to be confused is that some websites say they are in season through the winter, since they will continue to grow in areas that don't have true frosts. Since North Carolina had a particularly cold winter with regular hard frosts you will be hard-pressed to find them in your local markets, CSAs or co-ops. Here are a couple good resources for North Carolina-specific growth seasons (including information on pumpkins and other types of gords and squashes): (scroll down to the NC section)

    4. This is true, they are mostly out of season at this point. Luckily, there are still farmers, at least in the Charlotte area, that are harvesting these vegetables. You better get them fast, though, because they're almost gone!